Don Topley: It’s just not cricket unless you buy quality balls!

James Anderson is perhaps our greatest-ever swing bowler - but could he do it with a cheap ball? Pic

James Anderson is perhaps our greatest-ever swing bowler - but could he do it with a cheap ball? Picture: PA SPORT - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Don Topley tackles the issue of cheap balls, and looks at the Champions Trophy tournament so far, in his latest On the Boundary cricket column.

Cricketers, and in particular batsmen, spend a huge amount of money on bats as they always have done in the history of the game – it is the most expensive bit of equipment required to play.

The smell and beauty of a brand-new bat is a great pleasure. When purchasing a new bat, one always checks the weight, the balance and the sweet-spot of the bat and generally its feel-good factor.

However, for the last 30 years I have been hugely critical of administrators, opposing schools, youth festivals, cricket clubs and even representative amateur county cricket leagues, who always look to cost save or purchase just an ‘ok’ match ball.

An ‘ok’ ball is simply not good enough – the cricket ball is the most important ingredient in the cricket contest between bowler and batsman.

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Club cricketers pay their weekly match fees which may include umpires’ expenses, match teas and contributions to cover the two match balls required in the fixture.

But I have seen it first hand, that administrators/coaches purchase a lesser ball which ultimately is cheaper and of a poorer quality.

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I have witnessed many a youth cricket festival around the country purchasing poor junior balls at £3-£5 which resemble and sound like a stone.

The cheaper inferior ball does not swing either and probably isn’t so healthy for these highly priced cricket bats. They may have an inner man-made resin, no rubber or cork, and are simply mass produced.

This is unlike the much better-quality, hand-made, leather four-piece cricket ball which is traditionally hand sewn.

What concerns me is that the skill of swinging the ball is probably the greatest skill within the game – which not all bowlers possess and will not occur with that cheaper ball.

Swing bowling happens through the air and takes the pitch out of the equation and offers some help to the bowler. In the history of the game swing bowlers have been and are the most dangerous.

We, bowlers, remain the peasants of the game and simply, the purveyor of the ball for the more glamorous and high profiled batsman to dismiss.

Please schools, clubs, youth festivals and county leagues, don’t scrimp and save on match balls.

Buy proper quality cricket balls for a proper contest. Rant over!

- So, England won their second Champions Trophy match and qualified for the semi-finals which is as expected and good news. Clinical victories over Bangladesh and New Zealand ensured progress but the British poor weather has made life uncertain for Australia with both their matches thus far being abandoned – they have to defeat England on Saturday to get through!

Statistically, as any geography teacher will tell you, June can be one of Britain’s wetter months, although we can experience some sunshine too – ‘flaming June’ was excellent for cricketers throughout East Anglia only last weekend.

Many of these Champions Trophy matches have been hit by squally showers which is disappointing for players and spectators alike, but we are in Britain!

This is one of the issues facing the new t20 tournament which will happen in 2020. It is proposed to have the fixtures in one lump in August. The thought of losing a chunk of games to the weather will dampen enthusiasm and attendances.

Watching top class t20 cricket on a glorious evening with a glass of bubbly is delightful but not so in a ski jacket drinking Bovril!

Sadly, Britain’s weather is not like Australia or South Africa. When we experience a bout of frontal rainfall, precipitation can be frequent and can last for days – naturally curtailing any cricket.

India, who have only played 3 ODIs in 2017 due to their home Australia Test Series and then their two month IPL, have hammered Pakistan between showers and now take on South Africa in a mouth-watering tie on Sunday.

What I didn’t know until this week was the ICC are in total charge of the groundsmen for the tournament and not the usual ECB. This will aid India as I expect now the ICC prepared wickets will be drier, abrasive and possibly used, as they are in India. Today, India control the ICC!

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